Changes in the Dietgrass shoots

  1. For serious problems where you have access to a ‘Dry Lot’
  2. For less serious problems or in situations where it is difficult to manage grass intake








For Serious Problems

ASAP remove the horse from the pasture into a good sized yard or 'dry lot' area.

It is vitally important there is NO green, even the shortest, most microscopic grass can often perpetuate these problems.
'no grass'
Many people would say there was 'no grass' in the photo above but it is GREEN and it is those little green shoots that cause the electrolyte imbalance that can trigger head-flicking, laminitis, musculo-skeletal issues and 'bad' behaviours.

You need a 'dry lot', somewhere there is NO GREEN to reverse these problems and when they are good again you can gradually introduce grass back into the diet.

Hay hay hay

Provide ad lib 24 hour hay.
In a net with a small mesh if you wish to slow down consumption
(See Hay-Savers)
Soak for at least an hour in a tub of water for laminitic/obesity cases

Give a feed every day of soaked beet and/or oaten chaff with linseed meal and oil (for protein and omega 3’s) adding Top quality Vitamins & Minerals and extra salt. Add more oil, copra and/or rolled barley if you need to put weight on.

AVOID potassium rich feeds

such as...

  • Kelp
  • Molasses
  • Lucerne
  • Protein Meals
  • Many herbs

Take a 'Before' photo or two and keep a diary to monitor improvements

If your horse 'isn't right', 'isn't his normal self', is doing things that are 'out of character' then definitely don't ride him. I could literally fill the website with stories of accidents which have happened when people ignored these warning signs and 'rode them anyway'!

Sometimes it is best not to handle them at all for a week or so, just leave them alone (apart from feed and care). Best not to try to 'work through issues', it is not only risky but is also a complete waste of time and energy as the issues won't be there when the horse comes back to normal.
See Success Stories

No can do?

If you can't do this due to rented grazing or you just can't manage the grass intake or if the problem is not too severe, you can do the following...

  • Still feed hay every day.
    The fibre will keep the hind-gut flora healthy and a by-product of this is the production of B vitamins which contribute significantly to a calm healthy horse.
  • Eliminate high potassium feeds
  • In addition to feeding salt and the vitamins and minerals add Graze Ezy. For a long term strategy of prevention read other articles on this site on Grasses & Pasture Management.

Is he OK?

when not to ride...

How do you know when your horse is OK to ride again?

He will be normal in every way. He won’t ‘twitch when you touch him, won’t mind being brushed, saddled, girthed.

He won’t be at all twitchy around the ears or difficult to bridle. He will be able to be lunged at the walk, trot and canter with completely normal gaits and smooth upward and downward transitions. Won’t be spooky or jumpy. His eye will be big and soft. He won’t be ridiculously herd-bound, wanting to put his head up and go too fast.
He will be calm and responsive and a pleasure to ride!

Don’t ride a horse that is not functioning normally! It is that simple.

Read 'When NOT to Ride!'



Choose One and Stick To It!!!

There are two choices when it comes to feeding your horse Vitamins & Minerals

  • Feed plain feeds and add your Vitamins & Minerals separately
  • Feed pre-mixed feeds that include vitamins and  minerals

Actually there is a third option and that is ‘don’t bother at all’ in the hope that the grass and any other feed will provide sufficient nutrition to keep the horse healthy.

Spare horses or those not being ridden are often  left to their own devices in this way but if you want the quiet ride at the weekend, the best performance at the event or a strong, healthy foal, then best not to take any chances.
Most people want to do their best by their horse so will go for option 1 or 2. The most important thing is to choose one and stick to it!

Feeding a scoop of a pre-mixed feed and then adding bits and pieces from other sources leads to your horse’s nutrition being a ‘hodge-podge’. You run the risk of doubling up on some elements and not providing enough of others. This can have more serious consequences for your horse than what you at first think as you are tinkering with his delicate metabolism. Doubling up on nutrients like selenium can lead to serious toxicity issues.

I have to confess this is what we used to do. Our feed sheds were full of this and that because ‘somebody said’ this or that. It was in fact a clear sign that we really didn’t know what we were doing! Nowadays we know better and have had the BEST results since simplifying matters, by feeding plain feeds and adding the most sophisticated  Vitamins & Minerals available that are already mixed  in the correct ratios and contain the necessary co-factors.

Co-factors are other vitamins or minerals which are necessary for the original mineral to be absorbed or to help it perform its function. For instance magnesium is a vital co-factor for calcium to be deposited into bones and Vit E is necessary for selenium to do it’s many important jobs.

Major advantages of Option 1

  • You can vary the carbohydrate (sugar & starch) content of your horse’s diet without varying the dose of Vitamins and Minerals. If your horse needs to lose weight you can cut down the carbs without messing with his mineral levels and conversely, to gain weight you can safely add carbs and fat without upping his vitamins and minerals. When varying the amounts of pre-mixed feeds you are varying everything in that feed.
  • You can add top quality Vitamins & Minerals (Premium New-Zealand-Horse Minerals) which contain organic forms of minerals which are more quickly absorbed, better utilised within the horse and better stored when necessary. They are already attached to their appropriate amino acid so are not available to interfere with the absorption of other minerals. This is especially the case with minerals like iron. Horses are usually well supplied with iron as they are always nibbling around on the dirt. If a supplement contains large quantities of inorganic iron then it will be detrimental to copper, zinc and Vit E absorption. Organic iron, on the other hand, being already attached will give maximum use of the copper, zinc & Vit E in the blend.
  • This means superior synergy of the whole brew giving you the most value for money. In other words the effect of the Vitamins & Minerals in combination is far greater than  if  you added the effect of each  separate component. This happens particularly when you have key minerals available in certain organic forms and in the company of  their appropriate co-factors

Accurately Balancing  Minerals

This is only possible if the diet is always the same as in a situation where the horse is stabled 24/7 (certainly not an ideal situation for any horse). If your horse consumes  hay 24/7 which all came from the same source, then it is possible to have that hay analysed for mineral content. And you can obtain the mineral content of other hard feed he is receiving.
However, if your horse is on any green, growing grass then it becomes impossible because the mineral content of the grass changes with the season, the weather, fertiliser applications and so on. In other words you wouldn’t want to base your horse’s diet on one grass test because it could be different tomorrow or in a few weeks time.
When horses become minerally deficient or imbalanced it will show as perplexing health and behavioural issues, impaired movement  and  increased  developmental orthopedic diseases in foals. Horses ‘down’ on their vitamins & minerals are significantly more susceptible to the effects of high nitrates in the grass, and are more prone to grass tetany. In addition they are far more susceptible to infectious diseases as they will have a compromised  immune system.
Supplementing with effective Vitamins and Minerals is absolutely the economical way to go when you consider the alternatives costs of all the on-going  investigations and treatments when you can’t figure out what is going wrong! Thousands of dollars when you start adding up! Better to spend your money on good hay (to correctly feed the flora in the hind-gut with the coarse fibrous material it is designed to process ) and good Vitamins & Minerals, the building blocks of superb health. Health bills go down, riding enjoyment goes up!
We understand that you may have ‘favorite’ feed products and may be reluctant to change. The good news is that Alleviate, Alleviate-C,  Graze Ezy and Tox-Defy are perfectly safe to feed alongside any pre-mixed feeds you may currently be feeding.
It is an unfortunate fact that most of our horses are finished their useful lives before they are 20! They should still be rideable at least to their late twenties and early thirties. For one thing they can only live as long as their teeth! Chronic lifetime deficiencies of minerals like calcium, magnesium, boron, phosphorous, copper, zinc and Vitamin D will mean early onset of bad dentition. Retirement comes too soon due to degenerative diseases like osteoporosis, and arthritis. Sway backs develop, and/or  Cushing’s sets in. All these conditions could be postponed for a good five to ten years by providing high fibre, minerally balanced diets since conception!

By far the best way to ‘balance’ your horse’s diet is to REMOVE the items that are unbalancing it which are usually:
Rapidly growing grass
Legumes like clover & lucerne


How to Feed for Cool Energy                    

How do you know if a feed is going to be ‘heating’ for your horse? It is actually quite easy when you understand the following information on how the horse’s digestive system works.

Food that is first chewed and thereby mixed with saliva passes into the stomach which has a very acidic environment because it is expecting to have to start the breakdown process of high fibre forage. 
This material then moves into the small intestine(which is actually quite long and narrow) where the ‘simple’ sugars (for example from growing grass or molasses) are quickly absorbed into the bloodstream.

Carbohydrates and starches from various grains and plants like clovers are broken down with the help of enzymes, into simple sugars so they too can be quickly transported into the blood. This is the reason such feeds are high energy and can so quickly cause metabolic and behavioural problems for the horse.

All ‘broadleaf’ plants are capable of storing a LOT of starch and each molecule of starch contains a LOT of molecules of sugar. Hence clovers, dandelions, cat’s ear, cape weeds and plantains are both palatable and fattening!
Starch is also a major component of cereal grains, oats being about 50% and corn up to 70%.

The fibre content of the horse’s diet however, travels through the small intestine and on into the enormous hind-gut which consists of the caecum plus the large intestine, both of which are inhabited by billions of micro-organisms making up the hind-gut flora.

The hind-gut flora thrive on fermenting this fibre. As a by-product of the fermentation process they produce enough ‘volatile fatty acids’ to be useful to the horse as energy, (the best kind of energy), plenty of B-Vitamins  which help the nervous system, biotin for healthy coat and hooves, Vitamin K, heat, water (and some gas!)

Because they are ‘hind-gut fermenters’ horses can bloom in very unfertile regions of the planet.  They survive by deriving a little bit of nutrition out of a lot of mouthfuls of low nutrient density fodder. This is why they graze or browse all day long. Vegetative (growing) grass is not high enough in fibre. Instead it is high in potassium, nitrogen, simple sugars and water.  Horses were never meant to be confined behind fences eating regrowth grass!

Therefore if you really do want ‘cool’ energy for the quiet ride at the weekend, safe ponies for your kids and good behaviour at the competition, then high fibre feeds should predominate in your horse’s diet.  Hays, more mature, stalky grass, chaffs and beets are ideal. These are the feeds that will be fermented by the hind-gut flora.  Avoid too much green grass, legumes, grains, especially processed, micronized or extruded, protein meals and molasses.

On the other hand if your horse lacks energy or you need more energy for more intense work then you can gradually add these items to your horse’s diet. Vicky and Shrek
Bear in mind if you do feed a high carbohydrate diet that there is a risk of undigested starch reaching the large intestine where it causes trouble by feeding the ‘not so desirable’ members of the flora population and wreck the environment for the ‘good’ flora. This can lead to various digestive disturbances and laminitis.

Keep in mind that your primary objective is to feed the flora in the hind-gut so they can feed the horse. The horse will not be in optimal health without a happy hindgut flora population.

To sum up: The only truly ‘cool’ feeds are high fibre feeds such as mature grasses, hays, beets and chaffs. Only add carbohydrates, starches, extruded grains and other ‘highly digestible’ feeds if you need more energy when you ride.

Vicky’s Shrek (pictured) performed to a very high level on such a high fibre diet supplemented with Premium NZ Horse Minerals, XtraCal with Alleviate around competition time. He has not had any processed feeds for more than 3 years.  He demonstrated a picture of health and vitality as well as keeping a cool head under duress of competition.